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Ref: 24/07
Date: 31 January 2007

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2005 UK climate change sustainable development indicator and greenhouse gas emissions final figures

Defra today published final 2005 emission estimates for greenhouse gases for the UK. 

  • Emissions of the ‘basket’ of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol fell by 15.3 per cent between the base year and 2005, down from 775.2 to 656.2 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. (The base year is 1990 for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and 1995 for fluorinated compounds). The basket of greenhouse gases consists of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, weighted by global warming potential. To meet its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, the UK has agreed to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent relative to the base year by the period 2008-2012.
  • Net emissions of carbon dioxide fell by 6.4 per cent between 1990 and 2005, down from 592.1 to 554.2 million tonnes. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 84 per cent of the ‘basket’ of greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions in 2005 were 0.1 per cent lower than in 2004. This was mainly due to decreases in domestic emissions down by 4.6 per cent. There were,  however, increases in emissions from the other main sectors including energy production (0.9 per cent) and road transport (0.4 percent) over the same period.
  • Since 1990 emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, the other two major greenhouse gases, fell by 52 per cent and 38 per cent respectively. Emissions of the fluorinated compounds have fallen by 23 per cent since 1990 and by 38 per cent since 1995.
  • Aside from the Kyoto target the UK aims to move towards its goal of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010, and to put itself on a path to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
  • 2005 was the first year of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Under this Scheme, UK industries have had to purchase 27.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide more than their allocation for the year. Further details are in the Defra news release of 15th May 2006 (,

The summary table (Appendix A) can be found here PDF logo (13 KB).

Emissions are presented as carbon dioxide equivalent in line with international reporting and carbon trading. The new presentation does not affect the trends or progress towards targets in any way.

Inventory developments

Each year the UK emissions inventory is subject to methodological improvements, and the whole time series is recalculated to take account of any changes.

On 15 January 2006 the UK submitted a draft ‘Assigned Amount’ report to the EU which is the basis of the UK’s 12.5 per cent emission reduction target. It also set out the choices the UK has made on the base year to use for fluorinated compounds, and on how to account land use, land-use change and forestry activities.

The UK Assigned Amount report has been published on the Defra website

The greenhouse gas index is now as consistent as possible with the basis on which UK compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will ultimately be assessed. It takes into account net emissions from afforestation, reforestation, deforestation and forest management, and includes emissions for the UK Overseas Territories of Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat. These adjustments also mean that the greenhouse gas basket, shown in Appendix A, differs very slightly from the sum of the individual gases shown.

Carbon dioxide is reported as total emissions minus total removals by carbon sinks. This net basis is consistent with that adopted in the current review of the UK Climate Change Programme and allows the forestry sector to contribute fully towards the UK’s 20 per cent emission reduction goal.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is the main man-made contributor to global warming. The UK contributes about 2 per cent to global man-made emissions, which are estimated to range between 22.8 and 25.3 billion tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Carbon dioxide accounted for about 84 per cent of the UK’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.

In 2005, 37 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions were from energy industries, 22 per cent from road transport, 18 per cent from other industries and 15 per cent from residential fossil fuel use. Since 1990, emissions from the energy industry have reduced by 12 per cent and other industrial emissions reduced by 14 per cent.

Since 2004 however emissions from the energy industry have risen by 0.9 per cent and other industrial emissions increased by 0.6 percent whilst domestic emissions have fallen by 4.6 percent.


In 2005 methane accounted for about 8 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emissions, excluding those from natural sources, were 52 per cent below 1990 levels. In 2005, the main sources of methane were landfill sites (40 per cent of the total) and agriculture (37 per cent).

Emissions from landfill  have reduced by 61 per cent and emissions from agriculture by 15 per cent since 1990.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide emissions accounted for about 6 per cent of the UK's man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2005.

Nitrous oxide emissions fell by 38 per cent between 1990 and 2005. The largest reductions were in emissions from adipic acid production between 1998 and 1999. This leaves agriculture as the main source, accounting for about two thirds of emissions, mainly from agricultural soils.

Road transport emissions were almost 5 times higher in 2005 than in 1990, increasing from 1.6 per cent of the total to 13 per cent in 2005. This is a result of the introduction of three way catalytic converters, which significantly reduce emissions of various other harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, but have a side-effect of producing higher emissions of nitrous oxide.

Emissions from UK-based international aviation and shipping bunkers

*** This is a UK sustainable development strategy indicator ***

Emissions from international aviation and shipping can be estimated from refuelling from bunkers at UK airports and ports (whether by UK or non-UK operators).

Between 1990 and 2005, emissions from aviation fuel use more than doubled. Between 2004 and 2005 CO2 emissions from domestic aviation increased by 7.1 per cent whilst International aviation emissions increased by 5.7 per cent. due to an increased number of flights.

High altitude aviation has a greenhouse effect over and above that of carbon dioxide alone, but this is not reflected in this indicator. Emissions from UK shipping bunker fuel use fell by about an eighth, but UK operators purchase most of their fuel outside the UK.

Under the guidelines agreed for UNFCCC, reporting emission from international aviation and shipping are not included in the UK’s emissions, but these estimates are reported as memo items in national greenhouse gas inventories. Parties to the UNFCCC are required to act to limit or reduce emissions from international services working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Data tables for these pollutants and many other environmental statistics may be found on the Defra website at

Revisions from previous estimates

Provisional estimates of total carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 were published in March 2006, based on early estimates of energy consumption in the year.

The provisional estimate of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions from 2004 to 2005 was ¼ per cent, compared with a final figure of 0.1 per cent decrease in net carbon dioxide emissions. The provisional estimate of the decrease in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2005 was 5.3 per cent (estimated to the nearest half percentage point), compared with the final figure (on an equivalent net emissions basis) of 6.4 per cent. These differences arise from a combination of the range of uncertainty inherent in the provisional estimates ( +/- 1 %), and revisions to provisional energy statistics on which the provisional estimates were based. There has also been some reallocation of emissions between sectors, but methodological changes to the inventory have not affected the estimates very much on this occasion.

Notes to editors

  1. This Press Release and the related tables on the Defra web site are the first release of data from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory for 1970-2005, produced for Defra and the Devolved Administrations by AEA Energy & Environment. Additional results will be released as they become available, including a full report published towards the end of the year.
  2. Similar 1970-2005 results for non-greenhouse gas atmospheric pollutants will be published on 29 March 2007. Also on 29 March provisional estimates of total carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas basket emissions in 2006 will be published. For further information on the Inventory see the NAEI web site at
  3. The climate change indicator, and the additional aviation and shipping indicator, are two of  68 indicators supporting the Government’s  Sustainable Development Strategy .
  4. There are uncertainties associated with all estimates of greenhouse gas emissions. However, although for any given year considerable uncertainties may surround the emission estimates for a pollutant, it is important to note that trends over time are likely to be much more reliable.  For more information on these uncertainties see the Defra website at
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